France's Rouen Cathedral Spire Catches Fire, Firefighters Working to Control Blaze

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A scaffolding is seen during preliminary work in the Notre-Dame Cathedral, three months after a major fire, in Paris, France July 17, 2019. Stephane de Sakutin/Pool via REUTERS

TEMPO.CO, Paris - The spire of Rouen cathedral in northern France caught fire on Thursday, July 11, and firefighters said they were in the process of controlling it after earlier TV footage showed a thick plume of dark smoke rising from the building.

"We reached the site of the fire about half an hour ago now and we are in the process of making sure the fire is out. We will still need some time, perhaps an hour or so, to make sure there are no hot spots left in the area," said fire brigade chief Stephane Gouezec who spoke to several TV channels.

TV footage at 11:05 GMT showed the plume of smoke had gone.

The fire brigade chief said 70 firefighters and about 40 fire engines were taking part in the operation. The part of the spire where the fire broke out was located about 120 meters above the ground, he said.

The spire had been in renovation for several years and was surrounded by scaffolding and a white cover.

A jewel of French medieval Gothic architecture, the cathedral dates back to the 12th century and was repeatedly painted by impressionist artist Claude Monet in the 19th century, lifting its worldwide fame.

Earlier, TV footage showed people in the streets below looking up in horror at the sight of the dark smoke billowing into the sky.

In the latest images, smoke could still be seen through a gap in the white cover encircling the scaffolding around the spire but was no longer rising in a dark column.

The earlier scenes were reminiscent of the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 2019, which also started during renovation works.

In April this year, a fire ripped through Copenhagen's Old Stock Exchange, one of the Danish capital's most historic landmarks, and toppled its spire. Large parts of the outer walls later collapsed.

The local prefecture, which exercises state authority in the region, said the cathedral had been evacuated and emergency services were on the scene. A security cordon was in place around the building.

The prefecture said there were no reports of casualties and the extent of the damage was unclear for now.

REUTERS

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